Kids flock to libraries as closures hit

03/02/2012 by Stacey Bartlett

Record number of children's books borrowed in 2011 as library closures continue - but the fight back is underway

More than a third of all library books are borrowed by children, and five children’s writers are amongst the top ten most borrowed authors in UK libraries. Nearly 100 million children’s books were borrowed during 2010/11, which is the highest figure ever, although it comes at a bad time with the current proposed closures of UK libraries.

Former children’s laureate and much-loved author Jacqueline Wilson is the most borrowed author of the last ten years, clocking up more than 16million loans according to the Public Lending Right. The other children’s authors to make the top ten are Daisy Meadows, who is behind the Rainbow Magic series; Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon; The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and Kipper author Mick Inkpen. In 2009/10, seven out of the ten most borrowed authors were children’s writers, with the additions of Charlie and Lola author Lauren Child and Terry Deary of the Horrible Histories series.
 
“Many children still love borrowing books,” Jacqueline Wilson said. “That’s why we need our excellent libraries, so that all children can have free access to a huge variety of books.”
 
A year ago professionals predicted that 600 libraries in the UK could close; so far 32 have. The Public Libraries News estimates that around a tenth of the UK’s 4600 libraries are currently under threat, have been closed or have left council control. Recently legal challenges saw libraries in Somerset and Gloucestershire saved, while protests failed to save six libraries in Brent. Further protests are going on in Oxfordshire, Doncaster and Surrey.
 
Campaigners are particularly incensed by the lack of action on the part of those ministers whose role it is to protect cultural and educational provision: the culture minister, Ed Vaizey, and the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who is seen as failing in his legal duty to ensure the provision of a "comprehensive and efficient" library service (a responsibility set out in the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act). Author and campaigner Julia Donaldson - the seventh most borrowed author in the UK - described them as "singularly unresponsive".
 
The Shadow Libraries Minister Dan Jarvis condemned library closures recently, saying: "These are undoubtedly difficult times, and with them come difficult decisions, but there can be no excuse for government policies that are short-sighted and destructive."
 
He said that the people hit the hardest by library closures are the poorest: “The men, women and children who cannot afford the latest laptop…these are the people you find using the library computers, books and social space. They are the ones in the library doing their homework, searching for jobs and striving to improve their life opportunities."
 
Next week the culture, media and sport select committee begins taking evidence in an inquiry into the library closures. On 13 March, campaigners will lobby parliament to take action - see details here.
 
Top Ten Most Borrowed Authors in 2011:
 
1. James Patterson 
2. Daisy Meadows 
3. Nora Roberts 
4. Jacqueline Wilson 
5. Francesca Simon 
6. Danielle Steel 
7. Julia Donaldson 
8. M C Beaton 
9. Mick Inkpen 
10. Clive Cussler 
 
It is National Libraries Day tomorrow – visit the website to see what’s happening in your local library. We Love This Book is published by The Bookseller Group, which organises the Fight For Libraries campaign.
 
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